New NDIS Worker Screening Laws in Queensland


Queensland has recently implemented a nationally consistent NDIS worker screening system, strengthening the legislative framework for disability related worker screening in the State. Follow the link below for more details and to see how this impacts your organisation.

Disability Services and Other Legislation (Worker Screening) Amendment Bill 2020 (QLD)

This article applies to NDIS providers and other organisations who provide children related services and will likely amend the QLD – Children’s Services and QLD – Disability Services topics.

Please be advised that the Disability Services and Other Legislation (Worker Screening) Amendment Bill 2020 (QLD) (the Bill) passed the Queensland Parliament on 4 December 2020 and received Royal Assent on 11 December 2020. The Bill will amend the Disability Services Act 2006 (QLD) (DS Act) and the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 (WCC Act) and is due to commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.

Overview

By way of overview, the Bill supports nationally consistent worker screening for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which will enable NDIS screening clearances to be recognised across all States and Territories. The Bill proposes a ‘no card, no start’ approach for workers required to be screened under the new NDIS worker screening system to ensure the strongest safeguards are in place, and to achieve consistency with reforms to the current blue card system.

The Bill proposes to retain a state screening system for disability services funded or provided by the Queensland Government that are outside the jurisdiction of the NDIS Commission, (for example Accommodation Support and Respite Services). An NDIS clearance issued in Queensland will be considered a valid clearance for providing state disability services.

Engaging in risk-assessed NDIS work

Organisations should be aware that new section 53 will be inserted in the DS Act which establishes an offence for a registered NDIS provider to engage a person to carry out risk-assessed NDIS work without an NDIS clearance or interstate NDIS clearance, consistent with a ‘no card, no start’ policy approach. A breach of section 53 incurs a significant penalty (being a fine of 200 penalty units (currently $26,690) or 2 years imprisonment for aggravated circumstances or otherwise 100 penalty units (currently $13,345)). Aggravating circumstances include for example, when the registered NDIS provider was previously given notice that a person’s NDIS clearance was cancelled. In short, ‘risk-assessed NDIS work’ is defined as NDIS disability work carried out in a role for which the normal duties include the direct delivery of specified NDIS supports or services or is likely to require more than incidental contact with a person with disability. The normal duties of a person’s role are likely to require more than incidental contact with a person with disability if the duties include:

  • physically touching a person with disability; or
  • building a rapport with a person with disability as an integral and ordinary part of the performance of normal duties.

If a person’s check returns no relevant information, then clearance will automatically be granted. However, a person with a conviction for a disqualifying offence will automatically be denied clearance, and an applicant with pending charges for a serious or disqualifying offence will also be denied clearance unless exceptional circumstances can be proven.

A new section 54 will also be introduced to the DS Act which provides that a person who does not hold an NDIS clearance or an interstate NDIS clearance is prohibited from engaging in risk-assessed NDIS work for a registered NDIS provider. A breach of this section will result in a fine of 500 penalty units ($66,725) or 5 years imprisonment; or otherwise a fine of 100 penalty units ($13,345) (if no aggravating circumstances exist).

It is important to note that existing exemptions for blue card holders and registered health practitioners under the current DS Act (yellow card system) will not be replicated in the NDIS worker screening system. People who work with children with disability will still require a blue card but will also require a NDIS clearance, if working in risk-assessed NDIS work for a registered NDIS provider.

Under the Bill, the only exemption to NDIS worker screening is for supervised secondary school students undertaking work experience with a registered NDIS provider, provided the supervisor has a clearance.

Subscribers should be aware that a person with an NDIS clearance, issued in Queensland, will not be required to obtain a state disability clearance.

Finally, we note that under the Bill, a new category of regulated employment and regulated business will be inserted into the WCC Act. Essentially, a person who works or proposes to work in a NDIS ‘risk assessed role’ with children with disability must hold a blue card, regardless of whether the person is employed by or operates as a registered NDIS provider or an unregistered NDIS provider.

Please click here to access the full Bill.


Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au